Most of us are not very clear on the UK laws that apply to photography and even if we are, then it's very easy for the lines to get a little blurred. I'm pretty sure that most of us wouldn't break any laws intentionally but it's surprising how easy it actually is to go wrong. Now I haven't heard of anyone being arrested by the 'Bluebell Police' but most of these situations are incredibly easy to avoid. So have you ever been guilty of any of these?
- Damaging Bluebells. Let's get the bluebell thing out there first as it is that time of year. My feed is full of shoots involving them, including kids picking them or couples lying down in them. That gorgeous carpet of little blue flowers sure does make a pretty photo but stamp on one or put your models on them and you are breaking the law. Under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, bluebells became a protected species. If you squash one it will never grow back, but it is possible to tread carefully around them and respect that they are endangered while still getting your image.
- The Client's Right to Privacy. You have photographed someone's wedding so you own the copyright. That means you can use them wherever you like right? Post them on your site, on your facebook, submit to blogs, create sample albums... well no actually. When it comes to social photography, owning the copyright does not mean that you have an automatic right to publish. Your client has a right to privacy that was incorporated into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998. Their right to privacy is protected by Article 8 of the convention, "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence". So the onus is on you to gain written permission to publish your images anywhere. This is best done through your contract and one of the major reasons why we need one. Your client has the right to opt out of sharing images in a public forum and we should all remember that these are images from a private day, not just content for us to market ourselves with.
- Second Shooter Images Don't Belong to You. Do you use a second shooter at weddings? You are paying them so those images are yours right? Wrong, just as the images that you take are automatically copyrighted to you, so are their images to them. Whether they are paid or not is irrelevant, so you need to obtain the copyright from them. My advice would be to have a contract where they assign copyright to you and that this is signed by you both at every job.
- Adding Music to Slideshows. You make a fancy slideshow of the best images from a wedding and there right within Lightroom is a little button that asks you if you would like to add a track from your itunes. Same as our work is protected by copyright laws, so is music. This area can be a little confusing so think of it in terms of photographs. If your client shows a print of one of your images to their friends and family, that is fine but if they used that image to promote a commercial product then you would expect a further fee. So it's the same thing. If you suggest they listen to a certain track while viewing the slideshow, fine but if you add copyrighted music to a slideshow and give that to a client as part of your delivering your paid for product or you publish that same slideshow to your youtube/vimeo or social media channels to promote your work that is not fine. You are breaching the artist's copyright. My advice is to always seek out music that you can obtain a licence to use. There are several great services for just this purpose such as Music Bed.
- Copying Another Photographer's Work. You see a great image shot by a photographer that you admire, so what's the harm in recreating it yourself? This area has been recently in the news thanks to Marvin Gaye's estate suing Sony over the song Blurred Lines and they quite literally can be for any artist including photographers. You don't have to totally rip off an image to be seen to infringe the original photographer's copyright. If you copy the whole or a substantial part of someone else's work then you are risking being sued not only for copying but also for 'derogatory treatment' of the original work. Scary stuff? It sure is. In reality we all take influence from other photography that we see, but letting it influence you is one thing, directly imitating is another. It is probably only a matter of time before we see a case involving photography ending up in the courts.
- Trespassing. Obviously, just don't trespass anyway but this can be another grey area for photography. In reality most space in the UK belongs to someone and once there is a commercial aspect to photography, then things change. For instance there are bylaws that prevent any form of commercial photography in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and some of the Royal Parks. So think about location carefully when it comes to planning those engagement shoots. Want to do a long exposure with a tube train whizzing behind your couple? You are not allowed to use flash or a tripod on London Underground without seeking permission and the same goes for shooting for longer than 15 minutes. What about the countryside, surely that is a free for all, there is nobody there to stop you? If you harm any crops or encourage your subjects to in pursuit of an image as you will be causing criminal damage. All those lovely yellow fields of rapeseed blooming right now? That is private land and how the Farmer earns his living. Luckily our gorgeous countryside is also covered in public rights of way and bridle paths so research those rather than climbing into fenced off land to get your shot.
I hope that by reading this, you may just be that little bit more careful in future. I'm no legal expert but I've made it my concern to learn about all these things so that I don't unintentionally make any of these mistakes. If you think about it, they all make sense and we can all still take incredible images. The best thing to do if you have any concerns is to seek your own legal advice or if in doubt, then just don't do it. We have a wedding contract and a second shooter contract in The Barn to help you out a little.